Contrary to popular belief, marijuana has not been decriminalized in Missouri. Pleading guilty to marijuana possession will cause you to have a drug conviction on your criminal record, even if you were not arrested and there was no possibility of jail time.
What Does Decriminalization Mean?
“Decriminalization” means something that used to be considered a crime is no longer a crime. So, when people hear marijuana has been decriminalized, they think that means it’s no longer illegal.
Here’s the true story about “decriminalization” of marijuana: Missouri law changed a few years ago so that first-time offenders caught with drug paraphernalia or 10 grams or less of marijuana face a maximum penalty of only a $500 fine with no possibility of jail time.
That doesn’t mean possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia is now legal; you will still end up with a drug conviction on your criminal record if you plead guilty. But there is no jail time for first-time possession of drug paraphernalia or 10 grams or less of marijuana.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have prior drug-related convictions, that means you are not a first-time offender, so the maximum penalty would be 1 year in jail and a fine of $2,000 for possession of drug paraphernalia or 10 grams or less of marijuana.
Marijuana And Drug Paraphernalia Tickets Are Not The Same As Traffic Tickets
This is what I wish more people understood about marijuana and drug paraphernalia tickets in Missouri: A ticket for possession of drug paraphernalia or a small amount of marijuana is NOT the same as a traffic ticket.
I’ve had many clients tell me that the police officer who issued their marijuana or paraphernalia tickets told them all they have to do to resolve their case is pay the fine because it’s just like a traffic ticket. This is not true. There are long-term negative consequences of pleading guilty to even a small amount of marijuana.
I’m sure many people who plead guilty to marijuana possession know they will end up with a conviction, but they plead guilty anyway because it’s cheaper than hiring an attorney to represent them in court. However, I believe some people plead guilty to possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia without knowing their guilty plea will result in a drug conviction on their criminal record.
Consequences of Having a Drug Conviction On Your Criminal Record
Here are some of the consequences of having even just a misdemeanor conviction for a small amount of weed on your criminal record:
- The drug conviction will show up on your criminal record and will prevent you from getting a job
- You may be denied federal student aid for college
- Most landlords will be unwilling to rent an apartment to you
- You could be evicted from government-subsidized housing
You can avoid a drug conviction if you hire an attorney to get your charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious crime, such as “Littering.”
Penalties For Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession In Missouri
As I stated previously, marijuana has not been decriminalized in Missouri. It is still illegal to possess marijuana or drug paraphernalia in Missouri.
If you get charged with misdemeanor marijuana or drug paraphernalia possession in Missouri, here are the maximum potential penalties:
- Maximum penalty for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana = $500 fine but no jail time (for first-time offenders)
- Maximum penalty for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana = $2,000 fine and 1 year in jail (if you have prior convictions)
- Maximum penalty for possession of drug paraphernalia = $500 fine but no jail time (for first-time offenders)
- Maximum penalty for possession of drug paraphernalia = $2,000 fine and 1 year in jail (if you have prior convictions)
- Maximum penalty for possession of 35 grams or less = $2,000 fine and 1 year in jail
Even if you were not arrested and jail time is not a possibility in your case, you will still end up with a misdemeanor drug conviction on your criminal record if you plead guilty to:
- Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
- Possession of Marijuana (10 grams or Under)
- Possession of Marijuana (35 grams or Under)
This is true whether your drug charge is a municipal ordinance violation prosecuted in municipal court or a state violation prosecuted in circuit court.
Hire an Attorney To Help You Avoid a Marijuana Conviction
Instead of pleading guilty to drug charges, you can hire a criminal defense attorney to get your marijuana or drug paraphernalia charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering.”
When facing drug charges, your options are:
- Plead guilty (The judge will sentence you and you will have a drug conviction on your criminal record)
- Go to trial (This option is expensive, and you risk losing at trial and having a drug conviction on your criminal record)
- Get drug charges reduced to a less serious offense, such as “Littering” (No drug conviction on your criminal record)
In some courts, the Prosecutor might agree to one of the following plea bargain deals:
- Deferred Prosecution
- Diversion Program
- Dismissal of Charges After Probation
- Dismissal of Charges After Completing a Drug Education Class and Community Service
- Reduction of Charges to “Littering” After Paying a Fine
There are many options available when you are facing drug charges. The outcome of your case depends on your criminal history, your age, the specific details of your case, which court your case is being prosecuted in, and whether you have an experienced attorney representing you.
If you can’t afford to hire a private criminal defense attorney, you can contact the public defender’s office in the county in which you were charged and apply for a public defender.
Contact St. Louis marijuana lawyer Andrea Storey Rogers at (314) 724-5059 or [email protected] for a free consultation about your Missouri marijuana or drug paraphernalia tickets.